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 ARTICLE
Year : 2016  |  Volume : 18  |  Issue : 80  |  Page : 26--35

Acoustic assessment of speech privacy curtains in two nursing units


1 Department of Nursing Research, VA Portland Health Care System, Portland, Oregon, USA
2 SSA Acoustics, LLP, Seattle, Washington, USA

Correspondence Address:
Dr. Diana S Pope
5954 NE 16th Avenue, Portland - 97211, Oregon
USA
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Source of Support: None, Conflict of Interest: None


DOI: 10.4103/1463-1741.174377

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Hospitals have complex soundscapes that create challenges to patient care. Extraneous noise and high reverberation rates impair speech intelligibility, which leads to raised voices. In an unintended spiral, the increasing noise may result in diminished speech privacy, as people speak loudly to be heard over the din. The products available to improve hospital soundscapes include construction materials that absorb sound (acoustic ceiling tiles, carpet, wall insulation) and reduce reverberation rates. Enhanced privacy curtains are now available and offer potential for a relatively simple way to improve speech privacy and speech intelligibility by absorbing sound at the hospital patient's bedside. Acoustic assessments were performed over 2 days on two nursing units with a similar design in the same hospital. One unit was built with the 1970s' standard hospital construction and the other was newly refurbished (2013) with sound-absorbing features. In addition, we determined the effect of an enhanced privacy curtain versus standard privacy curtains using acoustic measures of speech privacy and speech intelligibility indexes. Privacy curtains provided auditory protection for the patients. In general, that protection was increased by the use of enhanced privacy curtains. On an average, the enhanced curtain improved sound absorption from 20% to 30%; however, there was considerable variability, depending on the configuration of the rooms tested. Enhanced privacy curtains provide measureable improvement to the acoustics of patient rooms but cannot overcome larger acoustic design issues. To shorten reverberation time, additional absorption, and compact and more fragmented nursing unit floor plate shapes should be considered.






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